How Small Business Back Office Automation Streamlines Your Busy Season

How Small Business Back Office Automation Streamlines Your Busy Season

Whether you’re selling coffee, baby bottles, or home repair services, all businesses experience a busy season of some kind. As you prepare for your highest-volume sales periods, figuring out how to run your store smoothly is likely top of mind.

 

Back-office administrative tasks are a must to keep your business running, but this repetitive work quickly burns through team bandwidth. You can simplify and streamline many back-office tasks through automation tools that keep time-consuming tasks off your to-do list. Below, learn how small business back office automation makes your team more productive and while keeping your customers happy. 

What You'll Learn In This Blog

First, Determine Your Busy Season

Consider your industry

Thanksgiving through Christmas may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think “holiday season,” but that’s certainly not a hard and fast rule. Many companies experience busy seasons specific to their business functions.

 

For example, the back-to-school season, starting in July and ending in September, is the second-largest retail season. Spending on back-to-school purchases in 2023 was projected to hit $41.5 billion

 

Certain industries also have multiple busy seasons. Candy vendors, for example, experience a rush during each of the “Big Four” holidays: Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and their highest-selling season, Easter. 

Make predictions from past data

Past sales data can help you determine when your company can expect a future sales spike. For example, a florist may narrow down the exact timeline for a busy period in mid-February and again around Mother’s Day in May. A review of order data can also uncover other busy periods they didn’t originally consider, perhaps around the end of the school year as parents buy gifts for teachers or graduating students. Examining your business data ensures you see your full picture. 

Which Factors Affect Your Busy Season?

Supply chain

Your suppliers probably experience a surge in sales activity right before you do as they prepare to meet your needs. Prioritize ordering your materials as early as possible, especially if you need to stock additional inventory. Suppliers may experience delayed deliveries or, as demand increases, raise prices. 

Staff bandwidth

It’s common for businesses to hire seasonal workers to assist when sales pick up. For example, if you handle local deliveries yourself, you might need to hire temporary delivery drivers during your busy season. Knowing your hiring needs early — and freeing up employees to tackle additional tasks by automating certain parts of your back office — makes it easier to properly staff your business.

Inventory storage

Items large and small all need to be kept somewhere before they head to the shop floor. Just because you’re preparing for a busy season doesn’t mean you have the physical room to hold it all. Note your storage needs and limitations before you place orders, and balance this carefully with your forecasted inventory needs for the busy season. 

Power Up

Get creative as you make room for the extra inventory you’re bringing in by reading our inventory storage blog. Extra items can be incorporated as part of the retail display, for example. You may also want to consider temporary storage space if the demand is great enough.

What Can — And Should — Be Automated In Your Back Office?

No matter when your busy season takes place, your staff needs to be prepared for the influx of customers, orders, and extra work that comes with this time period. Automated back office solutions streamline their day-to-day workflow while freeing up their time to focus on the bigger picture during busy periods. Here’s where to start.

Inventory management

When sales are booming, your inventory is constantly in flux. This makes accurate record-keeping an essential activity. However, updating inventory manually is time-consuming, and you run the risk of human error causing discrepancies in your records. Inventory management software provides real-time snapshots of your current inventory without manually counting.

 

In addition to removing a manual task from your team’s plate, inventory management automation contributes to a positive customer experience. Let’s say you run a chocolate shop that’s sold out of customer-favorite caramel truffles. Your automated inventory management system updates your e-commerce platform accordingly so that customers know you’re sold out. This saves them the trouble and annoyance of visiting in person only to not get what they want. 

 

The most helpful point of sale (POS) systems and e-commerce platforms work with your inventory management platform to allow push notifications. This way, customers know the moment when their favorite item is back in stock, so you never miss a sale. You also don’t have to spend time messaging customers that something they ordered is out of stock. This example of automating your back-office business processes shows the value that great automation software can bring to your busiest season.

Try Inventory Management Automation For Free

Thrive has features, including purchase order automation and multi-channel catalog syncing, specifically for busy season planning.

Catalog management

Sales depend on accurate descriptions, clear product images, and product reviews. The more quality information you provide customers, the more likely they are to buy. Keeping up with listings during the busy season, though, adds more work to your staff’s already-full plates. Automation tools cut time spent on these tasks by soliciting and publishing product reviews, pulling product images, and putting together descriptions.

Data management

Automating inventory and your catalog tracking fits under the larger umbrella of centralizing and automating all your business data. This form of back-office automation is key — manual data entry and data processing rank among the most repetitive, labor-intensive business processes.

 

Data management is an option for businesses of all sizes, not just large enterprises with hundreds of locations or billions of dollars in revenue. Integrations with your payment processor, marketing platforms, customer management software, and shipping software automate this crucial step. Not only does this save valuable time, but it improves accuracy and minimizes or eliminates human error altogether.

Accounting and finance

Task automation is ideal for streamlining financial back-office processes such as accounts receivable and accounts payable management. Accounts receivable automation makes it easier to send invoices to clients and ensure error-free work in revenue forecasting. Automating accounts payable also guarantees that you pay all your vendors on time. This results in improved employee efficiency across your finance team, leading to long-term cost savings. The last step, is syncing your sales to your accounting software to keep your books up-to-date save you and your accountant headaches come tax time.

HR tasks

If you’ve recently hired seasonal employees, there are employee onboarding tasks you’ll need to complete. Human resources automation software can streamline repetitive tasks related to managing new and longtime employees. In addition to simple employee training, you’ll automate daily tasks such as timesheet management. You’ll get new team members up to speed more quickly with less effort.

5 Ways To Work Smarter, Not Harder During Your Busiest Season

1. Minimum and maximum order levels

The min/max order method hinges on an automated workflow in your inventory management system. You’ll automate triggers so that when you reach a minimum value of inventory stock, the product will get added to your next purchase order. You’ll also set a maximum value that acts as your target stock count for the next ordering cycle. This way, you don’t have to worry about restocking on a time crunch later during your busy season. It’s one of the many ways an efficient back-office holiday automation flow keeps your business running with no hiccups. 

2. Sync sales channels

You might be selling products across multiple systems and platforms. For example, suppose you run a jewelry business via a standalone online store, with another product page through a third-party retail platform such as Instagram Shops. Stock synchronization tools help you cost-effectively centralize your inventory and sales information in one place. Instead of spending hours tediously updating each individual platform, you’ll use that time to create the perfect holiday necklace design.  

Simplify Multi-Channel Inventory Management

Manage and optimize your inventory across all the places you sell with Thrive. Experience simple set-up, real-time syncing, and instant visibility throughout your busy seasons.

3. Set up payment processor protections and fraud alerts

Purchases made via fraudulent payment methods cost your business time and money. When addressing high-risk payments, prevention is the best medicine, and the best systems automate this crucial authentication. Using a POS system or e-commerce platform that prioritizes data security and automatically requests authentication for credit card payments saves your team headaches later. 

4. Expedited shipping alerts

Providing tracking updates for all deliveries keeps your customers happy and demonstrates that your business prioritizes transparency. Using intelligent automation to set up personalized text messages is especially smart so customers get a nice note with every update. This both improves customer satisfaction and frees up time for you to focus on other tasks.

5. Optimize fulfillment

Optimizing order fulfillment is all about streamlining production. Are there any manufacturing bottlenecks in your core operations that could run smoother? Is product packaging being handled by three team members when it could just be one plus automation software? Talk to your team about what tasks are the most time-consuming to see where you can be more efficient in your fulfillment. 

How To Smoothly Introduce New Workflows During Your Busy Season

1. Staff training with any new platforms

In order for automation to save you time in the long term, you have to invest some time in the short term. If you’re implementing a new fulfillment or inventory management system, make sure your team is up to speed on how it works. Conduct thorough training before your busy season starts to give everyone time to ask questions and get familiar with the new platform. 

2. SOPs

Standard operating procedure (SOP) documentation serves multiple purposes. It records the workflow of all back-office processes so you know the order in which key steps must occur. SOPs are also a great tool when one-off questions arise, especially with new systems. Instead of employees asking another team member and using their valuable time, the employee can simply reference the SOP for the answer. 

3. Cross-train

Busy seasons are often an all-hands-on-deck situation. Training all employees on key tasks, including those not normally in their wheelhouse, means extra help wherever you need it. For example, if you’re selling items at holiday pop-up events, you may want to train all employees on in-person sales processes. 

Back Office Automation Makes It Easier To Do Business

When it’s time for your industry’s busy season, it can feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. But if you automate as many back-office tasks as you can, you will free up a lot of time. 

 

Simple administrative tasks are the easiest to automate. Back office automation systems facilitate duties ranging from data entry to employee onboarding and automating vendor payments. With this software in place, when your busy season rolls around, save your time and energy for bigger and better things.

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